What kind of travel insurance should I get?

·9-min read
 (Stefan Vladimirov/Unsplash)
(Stefan Vladimirov/Unsplash)

Travel insurance and coronavirus

When buying travel insurance, check whether the policy provides cancellation cover that includes coronavirus risks, including if you fall ill or need to isolate before you travel. You should also have cover in case you fall ill (including with Covid) while you are away. Read the policy documents and check levels of cover with the insurer if you are not sure what protection is provided.

Travel insurance is an essential for any holiday. Not only can it protect you financially should anything go wrong while you’re away – such as losing your baggage, becoming ill or having an accident – but, if you buy a policy as soon as you’ve booked, you could be covered for having to cancel in the run-up to your trip.

When taking out travel insurance, it’s important to choose the best policy type for your circumstances to ensure you’re adequately covered. Here we detail the key things to consider.

Who are you travelling with?

As well as travel insurance policies for individuals, you can also take out policies to cover all the people you are travelling with. This could work out as better value when compared to buying every person’s policy separately.

Policy types include:

  • Family travel insurance – this will, generally, cover two adults and their children under the age of 18. Some may cover grandchildren too. Make sure you read any limits the policy you are considering has, though, such as the number of children covered (which is typically eight)

  • Single-parent travel insurance – if you’re a single parent travelling with your kids, there are policies aimed at you too

  • Couples travel insurance – if you’re travelling with your other half, and are both over the age of 18, buying a joint policy may be a cost-effective option. However, make sure you read any policy’s terms and conditions before committing as you may need to have been in a relationship for a certain length of time or to live together to qualify

  • Group travel insurance – if you’re travelling with friends or with grown-up children who have left home, a group policy could be a good choice.

In any of these policies, look out for exclusions, age limits or limits on the number of travellers covered. And, if you take out an annual policy (rather than a single trip policy), check whether the individuals included on it will be covered by the policy when travelling alone or in groups.

As an example, children may not be covered by a family travel insurance policy when travelling without a parent.

Think about any pre-existing medical conditions anyone in your group has too as you’ll need to declare them and may need a specialist policy.

How often do you go away?

When taking out a new travel insurance policy, you’ll be asked whether you’d like to choose a single-trip or an annual policy, which will cover multiple trips in a year.

If you know you’ll be going away two or more times in a year, it’s worth comparing the price of single-trip policies with annual multi-trip policies. An annual policy is likely to work out as better value than buying several single-trip policies – and will save you the hassle of having to take a policy out with each trip.

With both policy types, check the number of days of travel you’ll be covered for on a particular trip, plus how many days in total annual policies cover you for. And, with annual multi-trip policies, think about where you’re likely to travel over the next year so you can choose the correct geographical cover (see below).

Where are you travelling to?

Another decision when taking out a travel insurance policy is the geographical area you’d like it to cover. Generally, you’ll be able to choose between:

  • UK travel insurance – to cover staycations. Check any terms and conditions such as a minimum number of nights away to qualify for cover as well as any stipulations around the distance your holiday must be from your home.

  • European travel insurance – check which destinations are covered by your insurer’s definition of Europe before taking a policy out. Some but not all insurers will include destinations such as Egypt, Morocco and Turkey under European cover.

  • Worldwide travel insurance – there are often two kinds of worldwide travel insurance policies available, those that cover travel to the USA, Caribbean and Canada and those that exclude those territories. Policies covering travel to the USA, Canada and the Caribbean tend to be more expensive due to the higher cost of medical treatment there.

Whichever geographical cover you take out, it’s important to remember that your travel insurance is likely to be void if you visit a country against the advice of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).

What kind of trip are you going on?

If you’re planning an extended trip or a trip-of-a-lifetime, you may need specialist insurance to cover you. Specialist policies include:

  • Backpacker travel insurance – standard travel insurance policies will only cover you for a limited number of days - perhaps 30 or 31. So, if you’re planning a gap year or another extended adventure, you may need to take out backpacker insurance. Some policies may offer additional cover to a standard policy too, such as cover for adventurous activities such as climbing or skiing .

  • Cruise travel insurance – cruise cover can protect you against things going wrong on an organised trip at sea, such as missed port stops due to bad weather or cabin confinement due to illness. You may have additional baggage or valuables limits too as you can take more luggage on board than you’d be able to on a flight.

What activities will you be taking part in?

If you plan to take part in high-adrenaline activities on your travels, check what your travel insurance covers you for as standard as well as any exclusions.

You’re likely to have to take out extra cover for certain sports and activities such as:

  • Winter sports travel insurance – whether you’re skiing, snowboarding or taking part in any other activities on the snow, it’s essential to take out specialist cover. This should protect you financially should you have an accident, there’s a piste closure or you lose any equipment. But always check any exclusions on a policy, such as any activities that won’t be covered.

  • Adventure sports travel insurance – whether you’re going away on a rock-climbing holiday or plan to go on a quad-biking excursion, check whether all of the activities you are taking part in on a holiday will be covered should something go wrong. If they aren’t included as standard, ask your insurer if you can add them on to a policy or seek out a specialist policy.

With both types of specialist cover, make sure you are familiar with the terms and conditions. As an example, you probably won’t be covered if you are taking part in an activity while under the influence of alcohol. You may also not be covered on some winter sports policies if you’re off-piste or you ignore advice to use a guide.

How old are you?

Travel insurers will, generally, charge older travellers more. This is because they see travellers over the age of 65 as more likely to make a medical claim and, therefore, a higher risk.

As people grow older, the number of insurance companies willing to cover them falls further, and prices increase. The trigger years for this happening tend to be 70, 75, 80 and so on.

Do you have a medical condition?

When you buy travel insurance, whatever your age, it’s essential that you are honest about any pre-existing medical conditions, past or present. Each insurer will have slightly different definitions, so talk to your insurer if you are unsure about which conditions you need to declare.

Disclosing conditions may push the price of a policy up and, with certain medical conditions, you may have to take out a specialist policy. But don’t be tempted to hide anything as, if you do, a claim could be turned down.

What to look for on all policy types

There are certain elements you should pay attention to on all travel insurance policies to give you peace of mind that you’ll be adequately protected should you need to make a claim.

Look carefully at the financial limits placed on each element of your policy. A solid policy will provide these levels of financial protection:

  • medical cover of £1 million or more for travel to Europe and £2 million or more for the USA

  • Repatriation cover (for medical reasons) included automatically

  • Cancellation or curtailment cover of £2,000 or more

  • Missed departure cover of £500 or more

  • Delay cover of £200 or more

  • Travel abandonment cover of £2,000 or more

  • Baggage cover of £1,500 or more

  • Personal liability cover of £2 million or more.

If you’ve not booked an ATOL-protected package holiday, you may want to look for a policy that includes ‘end supplier failure’ or ‘scheduled airline failure’ too. These will protect you financially should your travel company or airline fail – but read terms and conditions carefully as some airlines may be excluded from the cover.

These elements could prove to be invaluable at the moment as the coronavirus pandemic is placing travel companies under financial strain.

Don’t forget the ‘excess’ charge

The excess on a travel insurance policy is the amount that will be deducted from the money you receive if you make a successful claim. Check what this is and think realistically about whether you could afford to suffer the reduction. On some policies this may vary depending on what you are making a claim for.

And, if you have taken out a family or group travel insurance policy, make sure you’re clear on whether the excess is per person or per claim.

How can I find the best travel insurance deal?

Whatever kind of travel insurance policy you need, it’s important to shop around so you can find the best cover for you at the most competitive price. One way to do this is through a price-comparison service, which will allow you to enter your details once and then to see a number of policies side-by-side.

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